Potatoes, a popular crop in Newfoundland, Canada, are easy to grow. Potatoes form on underground stems, swelling the ends to create tubers. Stems pop up through the soil. To prevent exposure to the sun, potatoes are commonly covered by hills of soil. Buy seed potatoes that are disease-free, follow a few precautions to avoid diseases, keep potatoes watered during droughts and you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest. Several certified cultivars have been developed in Newfoundland to be resistant to potato pests and diseases.
Prepare the Bed
Prepare the potato bed by mixing in organic matter such as peat moss and a general purpose fertilizer (6-12-12) at 4.5 lbs. per 10 square meters.
Dig the soil a foot or more to mix these in and keep it loose for the potatoes to grow evenly.
Rotate potato beds annually to prevent diseases. Plant one bed and allow the old one to lie fallow for a season or plant non-tuber vegetables in it.
Plant the Potatoes
Plant seed potatoes in Newfoundland and Labrador in late May or early June. Prevent disease by planting the seed potatoes whole. Buy egg-size potatoes for an ideal seed. Cut large tubers to egg size, ensuring each piece has at least two well-developed eyes. Dry them for several days before planting to prevent rot.
Dig a hole 4 inches deep, drop in the seed potato and cover with soil. Space them about 12 inches apart with 25 inches between rows.
When the potatoes are 6 inches high pile soil around the stems, creating a hill that will keep the tubers from being exposed to the sun.
Apply kelp or fish meal and a second feeding of fertilizer after the flowers have formed. Newfoundlanders have used fish as fertilizer for centuries to supply calcium and phosphorous to the soil and nitrogen as the fish decays.
Water potatoes, especially during flower formation and during any dry periods.
Inspect potatoes regularly for sunburn. Tubers exposed to sun will turn green because of a chemical reaction with the sun. This creates a bitter flavor and is poisonous to sensitive people. Keep potatoes covered with soil to provide shade.
Watch for problems such as the fungus potato scab, which creates a scabby surface on the skin.
Examine stems at ground level for the bacteria blackleg that blackens and rots them. Remove them immediately and don’t plant potatoes in the same spot for two years.
Check for late blight, a fungus that attacks the potato leaves, turning them black with a gray fuzz on the undersides. Cut off and remove all affected foliage to keep it from spreading to the tubers. Destroy all stalks and old tubers at the end of every season.
Prevent canker, a fungus that produces warty skin growths, by buying certified resistant cultivars developed in Newfoundland and Labrador.